After reading a New York Times article on homeless teenagers, I found I had to make a comment. Over the last forty years I been working with kids society has thrown away. Most of that time, I have worked within various public education systems. The kids have been called troubled, juvenile delinquents, foster kids, minorities, under privileged, at risk, juvenile offenders, or just Bad Kids. Some survive and become “our” neighbors and we don’t notice them anymore as they check our groceries or wash our cars. Some we don’t notice because they are never in the places “we” frequent because they can’t afford them. They live in the abandoned house or on couches at someone else’s pity or avarice. My last stop on the public education train was abruptly ended when a new administrator decided that “we” couldn’t afford these kids. The program that had art and counseling and drama and mentoring was cut. This certainly improved the administrator’s publicity – he had fewer Bad Kids. It certainly didn’t help the kids or their families or law enforcement or the court system. But none of them were elected. He was. So I have retired. But I know after 40 years that the kids are still there.
Recently I read Push by Sapphire, on which the movie “Precious” is based. I didn’t need to read it. It is a story that hasn’t changed since I began working with “those kids.” I also agree with Ruby Payne, a controversial expert on poverty who says that the two things that help one move out of poverty are education and relationships. I would add that without the relationship, education is impossible. How can I teach you if you don’t trust me? How can you trust me if I can’t see you? So I encourage artists to paint pictures of invisible lives, people of faith to serve those who don’t know it’s Sunday, and politicians to speak to the invisible nonvoter. Let’s make them visible. Oh, and writers like Lise Haines can give them heroes.